World War Z (Blu-ray)
Paramount Pictures / 2013 / 123 mins / UR
Star and Producer Brad Pitt, Director Marc Forster and the four credited writers of Paramount's much troubled big budget movie adaptation of Max Brooks' hugely popular novel "World War Z" really wanted to emphasize that first word of the title. This is not Farmhouse War Z, Shopping Mall War Z or Georgia Prison War Z; this is WORLD WAR Z. This movie is about scale.
Gerry Lane (Pitt) is a former United Nations investigator who has retired to stay at home with his wife Karin (Mireille Enos) and raise their two daughters. Unfortunately, on his way to dropping the kids off at school and the wife at her job, the zombie apocalypse hit. And it didn't start with one or two sick people acting violently; mass panic has gripped Philadelphia (and the world we soon discover) overnight as endless hordes of fast moving, milky eyed zombies sprint around trying to eat almost everyone. Once you've been infected, you turn into a crazed flesh eater in about eleven seconds. Soon, Gerry is pulled back into service to figure out what is going on and is bopping all over the world trying to find the source of the plague and hopefully a cure.
WORLD WAR Z opens at a breakneck pace. Less than ten minutes into its running time Gerry is on the run desperately looking for food and supplies, narrowly escaping thousands of zombies from the streets of Philadelphia to a military base in South Korea to the walled in city of Jerusalem. Had the original ending been used the pace never would have stopped as the last act was reportedly a wild, over-the-top zombiepalooza in Russia. However that didn't work narratively and the talented Drew Goddard was brought in to rewrite the last act which thankfully brings the zombie menace up close and personal.
For most of the running time, WORLD WAR Z is a disaster film. Brad Pitt running from wave upon wave of computer-generated zombies reminded me time and again of Elijah Wood in DEEP IMPACT outrunning the tidal wave on his dirt bike. Exciting, yes. Silly, certainly. Entertaining, sure. I have to give major kudos to Pitt and company for trying to find a new slant for one of the most popular and populated subgenres of all time. WORLD WAR Z is truly a zombie movie unlike any other, if only there was something other than the visceral thrill of the chase to it. The zombie menace is shown (until the final act) as mostly a faceless mass you need to run away from, which our hero does repeatedly. However the best zombie movies are more than just a gory thrill ride (and this unrated cut of the movie didn't do a whole lot to change the theatrical version's PG-13 rating on this front.) They are cautionary tales, social commentaries and even character driven love stories. WORLD WAR Z is about the chase and that's it.
It should surprise absolutely nobody that Paramount's anamorphic 2.40 transfer looks spot on. WORLD WAR Z isn't a particularly flashy movie in terms of cinematography, nor should it be. The less attention the filmmakers draw to themselves the more real this cataclysm will come across. Colors are mostly muted (intentionally) and detail is pixel perfect.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround works overtime to put you right in the middle of the action with Gerry. This is an extremely active yet well mixed soundtrack. Again, it could have gone over the top (extremely easily I might add) but the emphasis was on realism and this sounds more like a war movie than a zombie movie. Top marks all around.
Well, maybe not all around. Like the recently released STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS Blu-ray, the supplement package on WORLD WAR Z leaves an awful lot to be desired, mostly that excised Russian ending. What we do get is a handful of featurettes:
"Origins" looks at the near impossible task of translating Brooks' novel into a workable screenplay.
"Looking to Science" focuses on real scientific facts about plagues and how they were incorporated into the movie.
"WWZ: Production" is a four-part documentary that zeroes in on the film's major special effect set-pieces: "Outbreak," "The Journey Begins," "Behind the Wall" and "Camouflage."
Is WORLD WAR Z the end all be all of zombie movies? Nah. But it certainly is a wild and fun ride well worth recommending!